Grieving Parents

Welcome May 30, 2011
If you are a parent who has lost a child, someone who is in the depths of grief or someone learning how to live the "new normal," I hope that the following will be of some help.
When the Waters are Deep May 30, 2011
Howard Edington, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, FL preached this sermon after his twenty-two year old son John David died after accidentally driving his car into a tree during a rainstorm.
A Random Act of Violence May 9, 2011
This article is about how a church in Illinois is healing following the murder of their pastor during a Sunday service. There are interviews with the murdered pastor's wife, the worship pastor and the minister of pastoral care.
Where the Children Can Dance May 2, 2011
Philip Turner, a former dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale wrote the following meditation and read it at his son, Brendan's funeral. Brendan, was delivered after his death, with spina bifida, a cleft palate, and club feet.
Anne Elizabeth Kuzee March 18, 2011
Anne Kuzee died of cancer when she was thirteen. Jack Roeda, her pastor, responded first by acknowledging the abyss of despair and unbelief that could surround the moment. Like biblical lament, he does not soften despair with sentimentality, but also does not let despair be the final word.
Alex's Death March 9, 2011
William Sloane Coffin preached this sermon less than two weeks after his son drove his car into Boston Harbour.
When I Endure Grief February 14, 2011
This is an excerpt from Lloyd John Ogilve's book "Praying Through the Tough Times."
Casey William Alley January 20, 2011
The following is Craig Barnes's funeral sermon for Casey William Alley, a three-week old baby boy.
Giving Birth to Grief January 18, 2011
"Like a mother's pangs, the death of a child brings painful contractions and release." Jack Rehill is a pastor in Pennsylvania and this is his story of the last days of his son's life.

Where the Children Can Dance

". . . and a little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6

Brendan's mother writes, "Neither of us [Philip and I] had ever been to a funeral for an unborn child, and we weren't sure if it was something that was done, but we both agreed that it was the right thing to do."

Brendan Joseph Albert Turner lived for seven months. He never saw the light of day. From the beginning he was terribly wounded, and in the end his wounds proved too much for him. He died as he lived, quiet and unseen, cuddled in his mother's womb. When he was born, his parents held him, wept, called him by name, and said goodbye; but from now on they will know him only by his absence.

We cannot know much about Brendan's life and death, what is graced and what is a sign of the terrible wound from which we all suffer. Any quickly spoken word, even a word of comfort, is bound to be false. For a clear vision of the meaning of life and our own we shall have to wait until the great day on which the truth of all our lives is made known. Then and only then will we know, even as we known.

For the time being we can see only in part, but by faith we can see enough to give us hope. If we know how to look, we can see extraordinary things in the midst of this horror. Brendan's birth was an occasion for discerning the body of Christ. His mother and father have been carried in the arms of the church like little children. They have been cared for as people would care for a wounded part of their own body. They have been taken by the hand, protected, and given freedom to weep and be afraid.

Sometimes on this earth we are blessed with a glimpse of people who adore God and who love others God has given into their hands as they love themselves. Sometimes on this earth we catch a glimpse of what the life everlasting is lie; Brendan's death was such an occasion.

Brendan's death has also shown us the most important thing we can know about ourselves. His body was wounded and his life short. He was cheated both of life's pain and of its pleasure. It is true that his life might have been one of unendurable pain, but we cannot say that with certainty. He might also have known joys far greater than any possible for us who are reckoned to be "normal."

We cannot weigh the pluses and minuses of his life, but we can see ourselves in him. We can see that one day we will be as helpless and wounded as he was from the day of his conception. We can see that our lives, like his, are short, and that their transfiguration is as dependent upon the grace and power of God as is his. In the end there are none of us who are not Brendan, and if we will look we may see that we are held to the breast of God as he is.

And if we by faith look into the heart of this horror, we will see the nature of greatness. The greatest of us is the least and the least the greatest, because greatness is given only to those who know that they live by grace alone. The fathomless love of God is all that Brendan has. We delude ourselves if we believe we have more.

It is Brendan and millions like him who will lead us all into the kingdom of heaven. That great company which no one can number will be led by the little ones. By grace, the night before they discovered that Brendan was dead, a friend asked his mother and father if they had an image of Jesus that they held before them as a guide and comfort. Both said no, but what they said then is not true now. They do have an image of Jesus, and it is this: There is a company of children dancing and singing, and Jesus walkes behind them like a good shepherd. Because they are so protected, they can skip freely and without care before the throne of God.

This posting is a chapter in "This Incomplete One: Words Occasioned by the Death of a Young Person," a book edited by Michael D. Bush. You can purchase it on Amazon.